According to a report, the FBI has never examined the servers of the Democratic National Committee — not even for the six months during which the bureau claimed to be investigating allegations of Russians compromising cyber networks.
In fact, according to a US intelligence official who spoke to Buzzfeed News, “the bureau has still not requested access to the hacked servers, a DNC spokesman said. No US government entity has run an independent forensic analysis on the system.”
While it would seem intuitive for the U.S. Intelligence Community to perform a detailed and methodical analysis of its own, Eric Walker, deputy communications director for the DNC, told Buzzfeed,
“The DNC had several meetings with representatives of the FBI’s Cyber Division and its Washington (DC) Field Office, the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, and U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and it responded to a variety of requests for cooperation, but the FBI never requested access to the DNC’s computer servers,” Walker told BuzzFeed News in an email.
Although the FBI declined to comment on the report, it’s notable the bureau has relied solely on third-party technology security company, CrowdStrike — whose controversial report early last year noted Russia-linked hackers penetrated DNC systems — for its analysis and assessment, rather than performing one of its own.
But the official who spoke with Buzzfeed — and expressed confidence Russia coordinated the ostensible ‘widespread hacks’ — didn’t exactly add an air of confidence to the CrowdStrike report, noting,
“CrowdStrike is pretty good. There’s no reason to believe that anything that they have concluded is not accurate.”
Relying on a single, ‘pretty good’ organization to examine a putative breach of national security would seem foolhardy, but the unnamed official confirmed that was the case.
“Beginning at the time the intrusion was discovered by the DNC,” Walker explained, “the DNC cooperated fully with the FBI and its investigation, providing access to all of the information uncovered by CrowdStrike — without any limits.”
Reports indicate the DNC discovered their system had been infiltrated in March 2016, but didn’t summon the tech security firm until May — and although the FBI had been given all relevant information concerning the alleged hack, apparently the bureau never investigated further.
According to the outlet, “BuzzFeed News spoke to three cybersecurity companies who have worked on major breaches in the last 15 months, who said that it was ‘par for the course’ for the FBI to do their own forensic research into the hacks. None wanted to comment on the record on another cybersecurity company’s work, or the work being done by a national security agency.”
But the FBI apparently did not do forensic research of the alleged DNC hack on its own — no matter if that is common practice or not.
A subsequent report from the Washington Post — notorious for publishing Fake News — cited unnamed officials from the CIA claiming the U.S. Intelligence Community concluded Russian government-associated actors had performed the hack and handed over documents for Wikileaks to publish.
However, that article contradicted the unanimity it intimated, stating no formal report would be forthcoming from the Intelligence Community as disagreement that conclusion remained. Further, an unnamed counterintelligence official with the FBI came forward rejecting the unnamed CIA officials’ allegations — despite FBI Director James Comey standing in agreement with the report.
Intelligence officials — most of whom remain anonymous — who share the view Russian State actors hacked systems of the Democrat Party infrastructure have yet to proffer conclusive and unassailable evidence to explain their position. Although they assert the supposed hackers sought to undermine Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House by swaying the vote in favor of Donald Trump, none have explained why that would be a motivation.
If what Buzzfeed reports is indeed true — and the FBI relied only on CrowdStrike and never performed its own standard forensic examination of DNC systems before Comey concluded The Russians threw the election — than questions about the bureau’s political agenda must be raised.
Again, no evidence has been provided to the public for further scrutiny — except for a rough and disclaimer-emblazoned joint report from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, since criticized for its lack of content damning to the Russian government. That report — although cited by President Obama prior to imposing sanctions and expelling 35 Russian diplomats — largely focused on defensive methods cybersecurity experts could employ in the future, rather evincing details of the alleged hacks.
And, as even mainstream Buzzfeed points out, “Nowhere in the report does it say that the government conducted its own computer forensics on the DNC servers.”
Corporate media has made a mess of the situation, citing that report as if it were indisputable evidence of Russian hackers infiltrating every computer system in the U.S.
But as Leonid Bershidsky wrote for Bloomberg View,
“The confusion has already begun. Last Saturday, The Washington Post reported that ‘a code associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe’ was found on a computer at a Vermont utility, setting off a series of forceful comments by politicians about Russians trying to hack the U.S. power grid. It soon emerged that the laptop hadn’t been connected to the grid, but in any case, if PAS was the code found on it and duly reported to the government, it’s overwhelmingly likely to be a false alarm. Thousands of individual hackers and groups routinely send out millions of spearphishing emails, meant for an unsuspecting person to click on a link and thus let hackers into his computer. Now, they have a strong incentive to use Russian-made backdoor software for U.S. targets.”
In other words, Russians hacking the election, the DNC, John Podesta, the electrical grid of Vermont, and all other accusations stand hollow and as-yet unproven — making the FBI’s lack of forensic investigation and reliance on a third-party tech security company both alarming and suspicious — and exponentially more so as the lame duck administration repeatedly provokes Moscow in the eleventh hour.
With sanctions in place, diplomats sent packing, and news special forces have been deployed to the Russian border, the public deserves unassailable evidence — conclusive proof — The Russians hacked anything at all.